After partying up in the rain at the South Okanagan Events Centre, the crowd of 3,655 were ready to give the Penticton Vees their support.
Hanging on to a 2-1 lead in the final minute of regulation time, fans chanted “Go Vees Go.” The Vees delivered with a 2-1 win over the West Kelowna Warriors in their B.C. Hockey League home opener to improve to 5-0.
|Penticton Vees scramble keep the puck out the net in the dying seconds of the third period with Parm Dhaliwal (22), Chase Stevenson, middle and Matt Kowalski, far right pressuring.
Mark Brett/Western News
“Playing in front of the fans is unbelievable,” said Vees co-captain Grant Cruikshank in his return, which he was named first star.
Cruikshank gave the Vees a 2-0 lead with 6:30 left in the second period after taking a pass from Nicky Leivermann. Inside the Warriors blueline, Cruikshank pulled a move to elude his opponent and cruise in freely on goalie Nik Amundrud to beat him five hole. Amundrud finished with 31 saves.
“I’m not really sure, it was kind of a blur,” said Cruikshank on his goal, which Cassidy Bowes also assisted on. “It was a nice play by Nicky giving the puck to me with speed. It was a fun game to be a part of. I’m glad we could get the win.”
Cruikshank said he had no idea where he was shooting, though he said some of his favourite targets are five-hole, low blocker on breakaways, and going high.
In the opening six minutes of the third there were only two shots on goal, both by the Warriors. The Vees had one play breaking into the Warriors zone as Cruikshank had Chris Klack on his far left. He fed Klack the puck, but Klack’s shot attempt would deflect high over the glass quickly wiping away a potentially dangerous scoring chance.
|West Kelowna Warriors defenceman Tyler Jutting shoves Penticton Vee Ryan Sandelin to get a better position to reach the puck.
Mark Brett/Western News
With 11 minutes remaining, Adam Scheel, named third star after turning aside 21 shots, made a key save on Jared Marino. Cruikshank agreed it was probably the biggest save he made.
“It’s great to have great goaltending back there. It gives all the guys on the bench confidence and the guys on the ice,” he said.
The Warriors solved Scheel with 1:14 left in regulation after Parm Dhaliwal won the draw back to Michael Ryan. He fed the puck high in the offensive zone to Chase Dubois, who took a moment before rifling a shot high past Scheel’s glove.
The Vees hit the scoresheet first at 9:02 of the second as Jared Nash and Leivermann teamed up to find Dakota Boutin. Boutin’s first shot was denied, but left alone near the crease, the Northern Michigan University commit fired a rebound past Amundrud for his second goal of the season.
Cruikshank said he felt they played a great game.
“There is a lot of skill on this team which is super exciting,” he said.
The man advantage wasn’t a factor for either team going 0-for-4.